Welcome to 2019. Yes, 2019. The number you’ll be writing, just to the right of the crossed out 2018, on your checks for the next month.
It seems as though 2018 must have been a horrific year for a lot of people if you pay attention to their social media posts. Yes, the political landscape is a mess. Yes, your 401K has probably diminished in value. Yes, intolerance for fellow man appears to have hit a new low. But, let’s take a moment and take a breath.
Here are facts:
We only fear the unknown and we are hard-wired to be on the defense against such things. Our brains tell us to expect the worst case scenario and out come the claws. It’s nature. You’re not going to change your defensive mechanisms. But, you CAN choose to respond rather than react. A response requires thought. Reaction doesn’t. Just remember this; if your doctor tells you that you have a reaction to your medication, that’s bad. If they tell you that you are responding to it, that’s good. Choose good. Take time to consider how you will respond to life’s challenges. Politically, it seems as though many have forgotten that we have checks and balances in place to keep anyone from having too much power. Don’t feed the trolls. And don’t look at any one “news source” as being valid. It isn’t. It’s likely not a “news” source at all, but an editorial source. Read, listen and develop your OWN opinion based on the facts you can uncover. Own your feelings. You don’t need any of your Facebook friends to agree with you. Leave social media for sharing pictures of what you’re having for dinner and leave politics in front of the keyboard, not hiding behind it.
Your money. If you are fortunate enough to have a 401k, congratulations. If you’re not maxing it out every year, reset your priorities and get on track to take full advantage of either free matching funds, putting off taxes for a while or both. 401k’s are “play money”. The amount in your fund really doesn’t matter unless you’re ready to take it out. We’ve had one hell of a ride for the past few years and the last quarter of 2018 was likely just a taste of a correction that is on the way. We saw a 15% swing during that time-frame (mostly downward). But remember, if your 401k plan is worth its salt, you are buying all the time. It’s a type of “dollar cost averaging”. As long as you keep buying/investing/feeding the fund, you’ll buy at both highs and lows. The trend is and has always been positive. The market will rise and fall, but plot it for more than 15 years and take a look at the trend. It’s still the place to be and you haven’t lost a cent unless you cash it out at the wrong time. Talk to your plan administrator or a private money manager about your investments. Now is THE time so you can bolster or change your strategies for the entire year. Oh, and never borrow from your 401k for anything less than an absolute emergency.
Intolerance. How have we not learned anything? Tribalism. That’s where we are. It’s “us vs them”. The problem, though, is establishing who “us” and “them” really are. Rich vs poor? Blue collar vs white collar? Old vs young? Carnivores vs vegans? Smokers vs non? Gun owners vs non-gun owners? Black vs white? Male vs female? “The Wall” vs the Statue of Liberty? Democrat vs Republican vs……?
How in the world have we found so many things to hate about one another?
“Tribalism” re-introduced itself into the mainstream in 2018 as “deep-thinking types” attempted to place a cause and a label on our division as a people.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together. Take a moment and listen to the other side. It’s tough. Why? Re-read my paragraph about defense mechanisms. We fear what we don’t know. This fear causes anxiety and poor decision-making (or worse yet, NO decision-making).
Learn about other people, groups, tribes and consider their thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t take long, but it’s incredibly difficult to open ourselves to the unknown. While there is safety in numbers, you really don’t have to be part of a group. That is ingrained in us from birth, certainly solidified in our school years and continues in our social and work lives as adults. We want to belong. But that “belonging” has its downside. It’s isolating and it holds us back from learning, sharing, tolerating and caring better for ourselves and one another.
Happy New Year.